| Introduction |
"It is a somewhat sobering thought that we know more about the number and position of stars in our galaxy, places that none of us will ever visit, than we do about the myriad of small animals that live in our backyard. This is despite the fact that these creatures eat our plants, sometimes bite us but most importantly contribute to the cycling of nutrients that sustain life."
Alarmed by the rapid deforestation of the species-rich tropical rain forest, prominent environmental biologists such as the Harvard ecologist Edward Wilson became increasingly active during the 1980s, warning the public about the impending crisis of species loss. In 1986 Wilson and others convened the National Forum on Biodiversity to discuss various problems associated with ecosystem loss. Calling attention to the scope of the crisis, that forum's organizers coined a new word: biodiversity.